2019/2020 National Budget: Subsidised bus cards are being abused – A-G

Students use their subsidised e-Transport bus cards. Picture FT FILE/ELIKI NUKUTABU

SUBSIDISED bus cards for schoolchildren are being abused by parents and students and as a result, Government will restrict the use of the card to 4.30pm, says Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

While delivering the 2019/2020 National Budget last night, he said Government had to restrict some of the assistance after they found loopholes in the program.

He said a high number of truancy cases was recorded when students were given the choice to board any public bus.

“There used to be a time when Government would subsidise students to ride on buses to and from school each day,” he said.

“These buses came at set times and if you miss the bus then you are out of luck.

“We undertook a trial program in the past year where we allowed students on subsidised programs to ride on any bus to and from school. In fact, we even extended the travelling time up to 7pm.

“We wanted to give some flexibility to the students and be a bit more liberal about the travel restrictions.

“Unfortunately, we have seen an unacceptable rise in truancy as a result. Some students are choosing to take buses anywhere but school.”

He said parents were also taking advantage of the subsidised bus cards.

“We actually have parents of students who are taking their child’s subsidised bus cards, putting it in phones and then simply tapping it when they travel during the day and getting the school bus subsidy and using them to travel around the country on half or fully paid fairs.

“They simply slide the cards into their wallets or into their phones and tap it against the machines undetected.

“A parent taking a student’s card, a student who should be travelling to school to abuse government assistance is a level of immorality that frankly we could not predict. We will be firmly closing that loophole by again restricting travel for subsidised students to the dedicated school buses and no longer allowing students to travel after 4.30pm.”

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